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What You Need to Know When Replacing a Window in an Existing Wall

What You Need to Know When Replacing a Window in an Existing Wall

When it comes to home repair jobs, few choices can produce a more dramatic impact than replacing your home windows. But while many other projects can be taken care of with a little bit of elbow grease and a good strategy, replacing a home window needs substantial work and a piece of technical knowledge.

As a result, replacing your windows is no easy feat. You’ll want to understand what type of window you’ll be using, the specific tasks required for replacing the window based on the size of the opening, and what tools it will take to build the right fit for your new window. Here are a few thoughts you may want to review:

What is Your Frame’s Condition?

The condition, or even presence, of the window frame is the first significant factor in matching the right type of window to your replacement job. If you are creating a new window frame, replacing a damaged frame, or otherwise tearing the wall down to the studs, consider new construction windows, also referred to as full frame replacement windows. Pocket replacement windows can be placed in projects where the window frame is not being taken out, is in good condition and properly leveled.

The size of your window will also play a role in which type of window you should purchase. Replacing a window with a window that is a similar size will make a pocket replacement window easier. However, upgrading your window to a larger size will require removing the previous frame and creating a new frame to fit your larger window as part of a full frame installation. Because of that, a full frame replacement window will be demanded for the job.

Removing the Old Frame

Selecting a full frame replacement window, as the name implies, typically requires replacing the current window frame, sashes and screen. This can typically be accomplished with a utility knife, screwdrivers, pry bar, hammer, putty knife and circular saw, depending on your installed window.

To protect your home exterior trim when removing the frame, lay a block of wood between the wall material and window, and then use a pry bar to remove the existing window trim.

Full Frame Window Options

Two window styles can take care of your needs when doing a full frame window installation: Nail fin windows and block frame windows.

Nail fin windows are often use in new construction projects, or any remodel where the walls will be pulled to the frame (studs). These windows have a thin piece of metal connected to the window itself that follows around the edges of the window frame. When affixing the window to a new frame, this nail fin connects the window directly to the house’s studs and is unseen between the interior and exterior of your home.

Adding a nail fin window can be both labor-intensive and may demand the construction of a new window frame or removal of siding so the builder can attach the nail fin to the studs. Nail fin windows are more convenient to install in new construction (for example, when adding a room to your house), as the window is put in before the rest of the wall is built around it. Further, if you are looking to place a nail fin window to an existing wall in a section of the house where a stone or brick exterior would also have to be damaged, the task might not be worth the time demanded.

Block frame windows present an option for situations where nail fin windows would be more damaging to install. These windows are built without a nail fin and are designed to be placed inside existing window flashing (the section of the window that has material to prevent water from entering into the walls) with little new construction work. This makes block frame windows a standard replacement for most older homes that currently have a window structure constructed or houses with siding or brick exteriors that would otherwise have to be damaged or removed to add a nail fin window.

Using Your Existing Frame

Replacement pocket windows are somewhat different than full frame replacement windows and are designed to be placed inside an existing window frame. While the existing window sashes and exterior stops of the window should be uninstalled for the new window to be added, pocket replacements allow homeowners to maintain the original frame, trim, siding and casing.

Just as with full frame window replacement, the home exterior around the window opening will determine how the pocket replacement process works, however with less steps. Different from full frame replacement window removal, most of the existing sash, hinges and operating hardware will be connected with screws that must be uninstalled before clearing away the head, jamb and sill stops with a pry-bar. As with the full frame replacement window, using a piece of wood to safeguard your wall exterior when taking out the old window is a smart way to help avoid any unintended damage.

After taking out the existing sashes and inspecting and preparing the opening, the replacement window can be installed into the opening and existing frame. Remember to plumb, level and square the window at each step of the installation to make certain your window has a proper, balanced fit.

Consult with a Professional Installer

The steps required to replace a window in an existing wall require a clear vision of your design ideas and a specific installation of your window. You can find detailed step-by-step installation instructions based on both the style of window, as well as the type of window opening, at install.pella.com.

Even with these illustrated instructions, a number of homeowners find that the idea of unintended damage to their home (as well as the time, cost and labor required) make window installation a project they’d rather not take on. Planning with a professional home window installation expert, like those at Pella of Evansville, provides the technical knowledge and know-how to do the job safely.

Whatever part you are in in your home window replacement job, call a Pella professional today. Even if you are considering replacing a home window on your own, a window installation pro can help determine what installation method is right for your home and discuss installation options.

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